LEWISTON — A plan to plant a city tree nursery on a four-acre lot across from the Geiger Elementary School could turn into big savings for the city in about eight years.
City Arborist Steve Murch said he has approval from school officials to plant up to 200 small hardwood saplings just south of the elementary school's driveway.
"Once we got it going, we should be able to plant replacement trees around the city without having to budget for them, or without spending money on them," Murch said.
Murch said his staff currently plants between 50 and 100 trees around the city each year, on average. Those trees usually have 2½-inch diameter trunks and can cost between $100 and $200, depending on the species.
He figures 200 younger trees, called whips, would cost about the same as one mature tree.
"If you can picture a small flexible branch that you can whip somebody with, that's where the term comes from," he said. "They have trunks about the size of your pinkie and they're about 18 inches tall."
He's still investigating prices, but hopes to be able to plant the trees — a mix of oaks, maples and some decorative species — this spring. The first ones would be big enough to transplant sometime in 2021.
"It might not eliminate the need to purchase trees completely," Murch said. "We might have to purchase some in the future, but it should save us a lot of money."
It's something Murch said the city has needed for a long time.
"I've been here 15 years, and it's something I've wanted to do from the beginning," he said. "My biggest stumbling block was finding a suitable location — a city lot with some privacy, but one where you wouldn't worry about vandalism. One that has decent soil and maybe a water source and a lot that we can keep for 15 to 20 years."
Murch said he presented the plan to use the Geiger land to school officials and they approved.
"We're very excited to have this project and to allow this to happen," Superintendent Bill Webster said. "We have the space, and I think it will be a wonderful addition to the community and one that the schools could benefit from, as well."
Murch said he imagines working with the Geiger students and teachers to help monitor and study the trees.
"We might be able to bring the kids out and use it as an educational thing," he said. "It's possible, too, that we can get volunteers to help us with this."